CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - With only hours remaining in their experiment, scientists crammed in as many ozone measurements as possible Friday with the satellite trailing space shuttle Discovery.
The astronauts plan to retrieve the environmental satellite Saturday.
Since being set free from Discovery last week, the satellite has collected enough data to fill more than a quarter-ton of computer disks, said Robert Conway, a Naval Research Laboratory scientist in charge of its ultraviolet telescope.
The biggest surprise for Conway is the large amount of hydroxyl and therefore water vapor found 40 to 60 miles above the high northern latitudes. Such evidence of ozone loss this high may have nothing to do with the depletion of the protective ozone layer miles below, but "it can teach us an immense amount" about the mixing of atmospheric gases, he said.
Discovery's crew of six released the reusable, German-built satellite shortly after reaching orbit Aug. 7. It flew free of the shuttle to avoid dirty jet exhaust and to aim wherever scientists wanted.
The astronauts will return the satellite to Earth on Monday.
Ground controllers, with the help of astronaut Jan Davis, squeezed in a few final tests of Japan's 5-foot robot arm. She said the arm rated an A-plus.
This was the only orbital tryout of the arm before an improved version flies on the planned international space station in four years. Station crews won't have to conduct as many risky spacewalks if they can use such an arm to handle precision work outside, like lifting small packages and loosening bolts.